Posted on Leave a comment

Letter to artisan chocolate makers

​Dear chocolate maker,
My name is Brian Atkin, I’m a half Solomon Islander living in Brisbane and I run a cacao social enterprise with smallholder farmers in my community on the island of Makira, Solomon Islands.
I don’t do it for earning an income.  I am fortunate enough to have a good job that pays for this enterprise and a very patient and supportive family.
We’ve been working on this for two years now, and are now shipping our sundried cacao beans into Brisbane.
I am about to bring in my second shipment of approx 170kg.
I’m looking for an ethical, artisan chocolate partner that wants to build a sustainable partnership with my community.  Cacao farming and supply to the specialty cacao market has the potential to change the lives of rural Solomon Islanders – lifting them out of poverty, empowering women and providing opportunities for their children.
If your first question is whether we have organic certification, then no we don’t.
Our smallholder farmers have no money, have completely organic practices and we certainly can’t afford the extravagant costs of first world organic certification.
Our production and shipping costs are high – we are smallholder farmers on a remote island in an archipelago at the other end of the world.  We can’t compete on price with plantation cacao farming from the major cacao growing regions.
But what we have in strengths more than makes up for this:
1) we have a supportive community with men and women eager to work.
2) we have what many consider amongst the most fertile lands anywhere – rich volcanic soil teeming with natural limestone rocks.
3) one of the highest annual rainfalls in the world (which can make sundrying a challenge).
4) well established but mostly poorly managed cacao farms everywhere – I sponsored a detailed field survey early this year and we surveyed more than 85 smallholder farmers with combined farms of 100 hectares across our village and the two neighbouring villages.
5) we have developed small scale fermentation and sundrying facilities in our village, the prices we are currently paying farmers for beans is higher than the bulk market price so we are having to turn farmers away.  This is before we have even started to increase prices to farmers to provide a fairer price as we scale up.
6) we have established the supply chain to get cacao beans to Brisbane and I carry all the risk – I pay my cousin a monthly salary and he has performance bonuses for successful exports to Brisbane.  I pay for all production and facilities costs, labour, export and import costs.  Our business employs three casual workers in our village, where the average casual daily rate is $20 AUD per day.
7) the eyes of many in the Solomons watch our progress, and one of our goals is that we can apply this same model across other parts of the Solomons – which means that there is potentially access to large volumes of cacao.  The Solomons currently exports 5,000 tonnes of cacao annually but most of it is smoke-dried cacao destined for the bulk markets in South East Asia.  There is one major buyer for most of this cacao, which sets the price through the chain of exporters, processors and middle agents all the way downstream to individual farmers.  This price is currently at a very low point in the cycle.

This is our story and we are looking for
special artisan chocolate partners to join us.

If you are interested and would like a further discussion, please let me kno

Leave a Reply